Now that the team previews are out of the way, it's time to take a gander at how the division races should play out. You may have noticed that in my team previews I projected some wins, some losses, and some toss-up games. In order for me to make a reasonable prediction for the divisions as a whole, I went ahead and loosely picked the toss-ups so that I could come up with a predicted overall record and conference record for each team.
Today's focus is on the chaotic Atlantic Division. Read it and weep....
1. Florida State (9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC)
When you toss out one of the worst offensive coaching staffs in all of college football and replace them with some of the best offensive minds in the game, you get better. Much better. Sure, there'll be some kinks to iron out along the way, and I'm still not sold on either Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee, but an improved offensive line should equate to a more prominent rushing attack and relieve some of the pressure on the QBs. The defense should be yet another ferocious Mickey Andrews beast.
t2. Clemson (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)
This club will not be as good as last year's edition, while the division as a whole will be tougher than it was in 2006. So naturally, I pick the Tigers to have the exact same record as last season. Easy enough.
t2. Wake Forest (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)
Offensively, they'll be significantly better than last year's attack; defensively, not so much. The slip on defense will result in a smaller turnover margin, which will swing a few games into the loss column this season. Nonetheless, the schedule is favorable and that'll keep the Deacons above .500 in the league.
4. Maryland (6-6 overall, 4-4 ACC)
I've seen the Terps picked anywhere from first to last in the division while perusing the glut of preseason previews out there on the internets, and the more I study them and look at last season, I lean toward the latter. From a purely statistical standpoint, it's incomprehensible that Maryland won nine games last year. That kind of inexplicable good fortune does not tend to repeat itself, and on paper, these Terps are not quite as good as the 2006 squad.
5. Boston College (7-5 overall, 3-5 ACC)
Of all the teams, this projection has the least to do with the existing talent and has almost everything to do with the coaching change and the schedule. Unlike the changes at FSU and (paradoxically) NC State - which are universally accepted as being for the better for those programs - the same cannot be said for the new regime at BC, at least not yet. On top of that, they have a tricky start to the season and finish with a brutal five-game stretch. Thus, I am a tad queasy about the Eagles this fall.
6. N.C. State (5-7 overall, 2-6 ACC)
Get 'em while they're down, because starting in 2008, the Wolfpack should be headed straight toward the top of the division. The talent inherited by Tom O'Brien is a bit of a mismatch for his coaching style, but the refreshing stability and strict focus on the basics he brings is enough to improve upon last year's fiasco by a few games. Unfortunately, it won't be enough to climb out of the division cellar.
I must admit that I'm not entirely comfortable with the projections from second-to-fifth place, although I'm reasonably certain that the Seminoles will win the division while the Wolfpack will bring up the rear. Ask me again next week and I may have Clemson fifth and Boston College second. Such is life in the wild and woolly Atlantic.